Search and rescue, doggy-style

When my cat went missing this summer, the last place I thought to look was the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong—I look at cute animals on the interwebs as much as the next Buzzfeed reader. I just never thought such an activity would somehow result in my pet’s return.

Women-only recovery experi­ment: did it work or not?

For Sherri Johnstone, resident at the Rainier Women’s Treatment Centre in the Downtown Eastside, the last two weeks have brought on some tearful goodbyes. As Health Canada funding for the four-year pilot project ceased Dec. 1, Johnstone and the Rainier’s 37 current residents are adjusting to immediate cuts in staff and programming.

“It’s been hard,” says Johnstone, who struggled with crack addiction and failed at traditional treatment programs before she was referred to the Rainier in 2011. “We started to open up to these women and now they’re not here… Now we have to do that again with somebody else — it makes me feel like I’m almost back at day one again.”

Occupy Wall Street’s new job: disaster relief

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, many New Yorkers are struggling to understand why parts of the city are still in crisis. By the time the lights in my East Village apartment returned, the citywide death toll had crept north of 40, thousands were still displaced and hundreds of thousands remained without basic utilities like electricity, water and heat.

Amid this darkness and uncertainty, a once-familiar movement reignited. Long before the first subway tunnels were pumped dry, members of Occupy Wall Street sprang into action, assessing the needs of people who lost everything in the storm.

Schooled in the rodeo

In her first semester at the University of Saskatchewan, Katie Dutchak missed barrel racing with her horse Rootbeer Kazanova. A competitive cowgirl throughout high school, she missed the type of community the rodeo had offered her.

Not anymore. Last January, the first-year arts and science student teamed up with fellow student and racer Shelby Clemens and brought competitive rodeo back to U of S.

Indie theatres weather the liquor license storm

Following months of struggle with British Columbia’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver will gradually return to the mixed programming it cultivated before 2012. For most of this year, the Rio operated under an imposed liquor licensing condition that prevented the venue from showing films.

Although the single-screen venue expects to make a full recovery, owner Corinne Lea says her company is not out of the woods yet. “Because our finances got depleted so badly, our biggest challenge is just digging ourselves out of the hole,” Lea says. “Now we’re creeping back.”

Is Vancouver’s public consultation process broken?

In the heat of debate over the Rize development in Mount Pleasant, residents began to question the entire public consultation process. “It is not the developers that are the enemy,” Annabel Vaughan told the council chambers on Tuesday, February 28. “The enemy is the flawed process that the City uses for rezoning large development sites.”

Standing before the developer, city council and a long list of concerned speakers, Vaughan said surrounding residents and businesses should have been more meaningfully consulted before the design process even began. “The current public process brings out the worst in everyone,” she observed. “Developers and architects design projects in isolation and then land ‘spaceships’ into neighbourhoods.”

Homeless count sweeps Vancouver

For a third year in a row, Vancouver’s spring homeless count wrapped up late last night. Volunteers scoured alleyways, parks, shelters and hospitals to gather information about the city’s shifting homeless population.

“We ask where they stayed last night, what their age is, whether they’re with a spouse or child or other relative,” says Judy Graves, co-ordinator of Vancouver’s tenant-assistance program. Graves oversaw Metro Vancouver’s first homeless count in 2002. She says details like income, gender, physical disabilities and illnesses are also collected.

Red Gate petitions to rent city-owned building

Since the Red Gate artist studio was shut down in October 2011, former manager Jim Carrico has been busy looking for another affordable haven for artists.

“I’ve been riding my bike around, putting the word out,” Carrico explains, estimating that he’s researched between 20 and 30 new locations. “The main thing we’re looking for is studio space, rehearsal space, production space—a place where people can afford to make art.”

“Affordable” is not an easy thing to come by in Vancouver, says Carrico, but at 281 Industrial Avenue, the price was just right: $8,500 per month.

Tasting makes drams come true

Before I knew what a dram was, I’d already sat down to share one with local scotch educator Darryl Lamb.

“It’s funny, dram is a term the Scots use for a drink of whisky, but there’s no formal amount,” says Lamb, also the general manager of Legacy Liquor Store in False Creek.

“You can have as many fingers as you want.”

Residents of Asia Hotel asked to leave by summer

For two weeks of February, a notice posted in the Asia Hotel on Pender Street informed tenants they have to move out by the end of June. And while the announcement has since been taken down, pending building repairs suggest the 34 to 38 low-income, Downtown Eastside residents will still have to relocate in the coming months.

“We just found out our lease for the Asia Hotel will not be renewed,” read part of the notice, “and therefore everyone must be out of the building by the end of June this year.”

Canada’s first robocall rally unites generations and parties with comedy

If the Vikileaks debacle taught us anything about modern scandal in this country, it’s that Canadians enjoy a few laughs with our outrage. Amid the crowd marching from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Victory Square on Saturday March 3rd—a rally calling for a public inquiry into the growing robocall scandal—good-natured Canuck humour was out in full force.

So you want to break into Hollywood North?

Like any preteen boy with an overactive imagination, Chris Clark loved monsters. He preferred the blood-sucking murderous variety, but truly anything with claws or scales was acceptable.

Twenty-ish years later, Clark builds monsters for a living. As a Vancouver-based special effects artist (okay, his official title is prosthetic FX tech), he’s punched fur into monkey suits worn in the recent Planet of the Apes prequel, and splattered brains on set of the Final Destination horror franchise.

Filmmaker gleefully reaches for once-forbidden fruit

Sometimes we want what we can’t have. For Vancouver-based filmmaker Katrin Bowen, these words have rang true for sex and television.

“I was raised very religiously and raised without much technology,” the director says of her Mennonite upbringing in rural Alberta. “I didn’t see a TV until I was about 12.” On set of her latest film Random Acts of Romance, Bowen feels she’s come a long way to the sharp-tongued social media jockey she is today.

AUDIO: Liquor laws relaxed for the Rio Theatre

At 9:00 a.m. on February 9th, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman announced that the province will now allow multi-use venues like the Rio to screen films outside liquor license hours.

“The change allows license holders to screen films and broadcast pay-per-view programs outside the hours outlined in their liquor license,” reads part of the press release. “License holders will still not be permitted to serve liquor during the screening of movies.”

Vancouver’s newest record label skips CD format

Vancouver has a tradition of local forward-thinking record labels, from Nettwerk to Mint to Scratch Records. But the latest imprint to launch in this city has a new, untested idea: Sizzle Teen Records will forgo the CD format and focus on vinyl and digital sales exclusively.

“If you look at the big guys in the music industry, from Warner Brothers to HMV, they’re all pretty much failing,” says label founder Richie Fudalewski. “From our experience, CDs are not worth it.”

Vancouver’s “poster mafia” dominates a bizarre racket

Sure, Vancouver’s got a cut-throat real estate industry—we’ve heard that one before. But down below all the empty towers and backroom deals lies an even more mercenary racket: the fight for postering supremacy.

Yes, all those brightly coloured rectangles populating our city’s traffic poles and construction sites are actually pawns in a decades-long battle hidden in plain sight. And the hands-down winner of Vancouver’s visual real estate war, for the last fifteen years at least, has been a group known ominously as “the poster mafia.” Seriously.

Banning bikes on Broadway

What began as an election campaign proposal has since snowballed into a heated online debate. In an October 24 editorial in the Georgia Straight, newly inaugurated Green Party councillor Adriane Carr first suggested “bike-free routes” on Vancouver’s main arteries like Broadway and Hastings.

“I realized in the beginning that I wasn’t specific enough,” says Carr, who is now advocating dedicated bus-only lanes on major roadways—a strategy Carr says was successful during the Olympics. “I’ve been talking to transit drivers who say it worked,” she continues. “The buses moved much more rapidly, and there were more buses on the routes.”

Arts event crawls east

It’s studio-hopping season again. For three days, the Eastside Culture Crawl will see hundreds of local artists open their creative spaces to the public.

Each year the Crawl, which kicks off tomorrow, serves as a snapshot of East Vancouver’s arts community. And while that community continues to find creative ways to thrive, there are a few changes afoot.

Street Meet

In response to police crackdowns on vending along East Hastings Street, a new weekend market allows the neighbourhood’s hucksters to legally sell their wares. Every Sunday between noon and 5 pm, Downtown Eastside vendors are now able to lay out blankets of reclaimed clothes, electronics, toys and trinkets, without fear of hefty fines . . .

Singing his praises

How do you pay tribute to the man who gave a voice (and a loud one at that) to Vancouver’s most disenfranchised neighbourhood?

Some visit Bruce Erikson Place—a social housing project on Hastings Street erected in his honour. Others have joined the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association—a charitable community organization Erikson founded in 1973.

But former Vancouver Sun reporter and long-time Downtown Eastside resident Bob Sarti had something different in mind when he wrote Bruce: The Musical.